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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, May 27, 2010

Day at beach offers many health benefits

By Ira Zunin, M.D., M.P.H.

One thing we can count on in Hawai'i is the beautiful ocean. Unless we are doing an expensive water sport, it's also free. So, does the ocean really help improve your health?

Physical benefits: Indeed, the ocean offers countless health benefits! Swimming is a great low-impact form of exercise that offers both cardiovascular and resistance training, which support the health of the heart, joints, muscles and tendons. Bodysurfing and diving challenge our sense of balance. Also, like any form of strenuous exercise, a good session in the ocean will increase our endorphin levels and improve our sense of well-being.

Benefits for the skin: The cool water by itself is also good for you. It stimulates circulation, benefitting your skin, muscles and cardiovascular system. The salt and sand are also excellent for the skin. The ocean is much saltier than our blood, so it draws out toxins by osmosis while the sand works like a total body scrub. With its high salt content, the ocean is loaded with tiny crystals which some believe can have a cleansing or clearing effect on our own electromagnetic currents.

Spiritual and psychological benefits: There are also tremendous spiritual and psychological benefits of getting out of the office and the house, out of the car, away from the mall, and far from comfort food and electronic entertainment to commune with nature. Next time you get a few miles out to sea, look back at Honolulu and consider how small your seemingly huge problem just became. A day at the beach is also something people of most all ages can enjoy, so it is often an opportunity to bond with family, friends and colleagues.

Benefits from the sun: Finally, since being in the ocean is an outdoor activity, we also have the benefits of the sun. In the right amounts, the sun is helpful for many skin conditions, such as psoriasis. It is also necessary for the synthesis of vitamin D. Remember to protect yourself, and don't get too much of a good thing!